Posts tagged down

Reddit Shuts Down Stolen Celebrity Photo Forum

Within hours of stating it would not shut down one of the major forums sharing nude celebrity photos, Reddit did just that. 

Yishan Wong wrote in a Saturday blog post that the site would not shut down the r/thefappening (where fap is slang for masturbation), one of the major distribution points for the photos, or other questionable forums. 

Reddit removed the stolen celebrity photos soon after the leak, and according to Wong, Reddit’s employees “deplore the theft of these images and we do not condone their widespread distribution,” but was “unlikely to make changes” in spite of that. 

“[W]e consider ourselves … the government of a new type of community. The role and responsibility of a government differs from that of a private corporation, in that it exercises restraint in the usage of its powers.”

See also: Is Reddit Dropping The Ban Hammer On BuzzFeed?

However, Reddit was compelled to recede on its position and ban r/thefappening anyway. “What happened is that we wrote the blog post, and at approximately the same time, activity in that subreddit starting violating other rules we have which do trigger a ban, so we banned it,” Wong explained in an addendum to the blog post.

Predictably, the two events occurring at the same time caused a lot of confusion for Reddit’s users. Reddit employees worked to dispel them in a lengthy Q&A thread

Jason Harvey (aka alienth), Reddit’s senior system administrator, wrote an introduction to the thread where he emphasized “the press and nature of this incident obviously made this issue extremely public, but it was not the reason why we did what we did.” 

However, redditors were skeptical. The top comment brings up another subreddit that featured sexualized images of minors, which Reddit only banned in 2011 after it became CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s pet project. 

“You’re doing the exact same thing you do every time there’s bad press. Deal with it at the last possible moment once there’s bad press forcing you to do so. Then you play it off like some moral revelation and use free speech as the reason why it doesn’t set a precedent.”

See also: 4chan Will Now Remove Awful Images—If They’re Copyrighted

Reddit isn’t the only website attempting to wash its hands of this incident. Forum site 4chan, where the images are rumored to have originated, set up a new Digital Millennium Copyright Act policy page in the wake of the crime. Likewise, the Prostate Cancer Foundation rejected r/thefappenings’ donations to their cause, stating “we would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner.”

Photo by Eva Blue

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Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Millions of photo links across Twitter will soon succumb to linkrot. The service Twitpic, once a primary avenue for posting images to the microblogging service, is shutting down.

So get ready to export all your photos, because as of September 25, they’ll be gone for good.

In a blog post, Twitpic said it is winding down because of pressure from Twitter over its name. It claims Twitter demanded it drop its application to trademark the Twitpic name, originally filed in 2009. If it didn’t, Twitter allegedly threatened a death sentence of sorts. Technically, it would have cut off Twitpic’s access to the application programming interface (see our API explainer) that lets users post links to Twitpic images directly on Twitter. 

See also: Twitter Kills The API Whitelist: What It Means For Developers And Innovation

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours,” Twitpic founder Noah Everett wrote. So the company decided to close down instead.

Twitpic hasn’t provided a way to export photos yet, but Everett said the option will be available within the next few days.

The Mark, Not The Name

Twitter says Twitpic was free to continue using its name, but defended its trademark request as necessary to protect its brand. As a Twitter spokesperson put it in a statement emailed by the company:

We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down. We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.

One possibility for Twitter’s intransigence on this point: If Twitpic won a trademark on its name, that might have set a precedent for other companies to similarly claim other variations on names starting with “Twit” name. That would obviously be an undesirable outcome from Twitter’s perspective.

So why didn’t Twitpic just keep the name and drop the trademark suit? A company’s unique identity is tied to their brand, and by trademarking a name, it ensures no one else can use it. Had Twitpic caved on this point, there wouldn’t have been anything to stop other companies from using its name in potentially unwelcome ways.

Twitpic could have also chosen to rename itself. Considering Twitter roadblocked the initial trademark attempt, though, it likely would have run into trouble with any other name bearing a resembance to “Twitter” as well.

Twitter-Centric Photo Sharing Apps Are Basically Pointless, Anyway

There may be another reason Twitpic chose to throw in the towel—namely, the fact that its service was apparently dwindling in popularity as Twitter itself shouldered it aside.

Twitpic and similar services such as yFrog rose to prominence five or so years ago by giving users a way to share photos directly on Twitter. But when Twitter dropped support for third-party photo sharing applications in 2012, and then created its own Instagram-like filters for images, third-party applications fell by the wayside.

Until recently, Twitpic remained the best service for uploading animated GIFs to share with friends, as Twitter didn’t support them. Then Twitter unveiled in-line GIF support, and Twitpic’s best argument for sticking around disappeared.

Twitpic might not have the resources to battle with Twitter over trademark issues, but it also may have just resigned itself to the inevitable: Twitter has rounded out its features to the point that users don’t need third-party photo services.

Lead image by Homard.net

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LinkedIn Locks Down Security, But Opens Up Data Export

LinkedIn is offering new security features that give you new tools for securing and controlling your information on the professional-networking site.

For instance, LinkedIn will now alert you when your password changes—and will give you a sense of where that request originated as well. When you change your password, you’ll not only get an email notification, you’ll be able to see which browser and operating system was used, as well as the IP address and approximate location of the computer or device used to request the change.

That warning to “change your password right away” may look a little tardy, but it actually takes you to a password-reset form that requests your email address and then sends you instructions.

Another privacy safeguard shows you where else you’re logged into LinkedIn and lets you log out of sessions you’re not currently using. Additionally, the service now lets users export all their LinkedIn data—that is, your entire profile, and post history and a variety of other activity. You can export your information here.

It’s probably a good idea to do a cursory check of your privacy settings while exploring the new security features, especially if you haven’t updated them in a while. But thanks to new features, users will be more aware of where and how their data is accessed, which will help make users—and their data—more secure on the site.

Lead image by Coletivo Mambembe; screenshot courtesy of LinkedIn.

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Gaming Star PewDiePie Shuts Down Comments As YouTube’s Troll Problem Hits Critical Mass

YouTube achieved peak troll this week when PewDiePie, video gamer star of the video-sharing community’s most popular channel ever, disabled comments, cutting off onsite communication with his more-than 30 million subscribers. 

In a video titled “Goodbye Forever Comments,” PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, addresses his fans, whom he affectionately calls “bros,” and explains that communicating with his fans in the YouTube comments system is almost impossible because of the overwhelming amount of spam and trolling:

“It’s been bothering me for so long now, I’ve been trying to find solutions to it. I was hoping that it would get better, I was hoping YouTube would try and figure a way out, but it doesn’t seem like it. I’m just sick of it, so I’m going to turn off the comments forever, they’re not coming back. I wouldn’t say that we lose something, I would say we’re taking the next step in the right direction, because it’s been going on for too long, these comments being shit.”

For the uninitiated, YouTube comments have long been a miserable cesspool of near-illiterate insults, obscenities and spam. There was never a time I’ve scrolled down to read comments on a YouTube video (whatever video it may be) and thought to myself, “why yes, that was a good idea.” 

See also: YouTube Is Chasing Hollywood—But It Should Worry About Its Homegrown Stars

This is a widely-shared sentiment amongst YouTube users, and yet the trolls keep coming. Now that the Google-owned site is spending big bucks on making its homegrown stars household names, the time for a fix is long overdue.  

It was only in May of this year that Kjellberg seemed to have a better handle on the comments system, posting a video titled “Mean Comments” where the YouTube gamer read and made good-natured fun of the troll comments on his videos. 

YouTube has tried to remedy their comment situation in the past. In September 2013, the company integrated Google+ to YouTube, so that comments from recognizable profiles were prioritized. With Google+, YouTube users were also encouraged to use their real names, which forced some less-than-pleasant users to come out from anonymity. 

After much pushback, this implementation ended in July 2014, when YouTube ended all restrictions on usernames that one could choose for the site. And once again, the trolls reared their ugly heads. 

See also: With Twitch, Amazon Has To Prove It Can Manage A Social Site

So what happens now? YouTube’s number one creator and veritable face of the brand has effectively cut off a significant portion of the video site as if it were an infected limb. Kjellberg would rather interact with his 30 million fans elsewhere, rather than the one part of the site that is meant for communication. That alone should send a message to YouTube loud and clear. 

The message is this: YouTube, get your comments system together. 

YouTube is heading on a high-speed train towards mainstream media, and will now be competing with Amazon-acquired Twitch, the livestreaming gaming site whose community chat is an integral part of its service. Service which is drawing millions of new users per month. Your move, YouTube. 

Images courtesy of PewDiePie

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Facebook Cracks Down On Clickbait With An Update To The News Feed by @mattsouthern

Facebook recently announced some some improvements to its News that promise weed out posts that users don’t want to see anymore because they’re too “spammy”. Facebook will be updating its News Feed algorithm to reduce click-baiting headlines, and to help people see links that Facebook says are in the “best format”. Facebook’s Plans To Crush Click-Bait Facebook defines “click-bait” as: “Click-baiting” is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which […]

The post Facebook Cracks Down On Clickbait With An Update To The News Feed by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Secret Is Cracking Down On Bullying

Secret, the anonymous application that lets users post random comments and share them with friends, is finally doing something about bullying.

Secret now uses sentiment analysis to determine if someone is posting something against the app’s guidelines—like a harassing comment—and will prompt users to rethink their posts if so. If someone posts it anyway, the Secret team will review the post, and block it if they find it in violation of its policies. Real names will also be blocked from the site whenever possible.

The changes were announced in a blog post on Friday.

It’s a much-needed update to the app that’s become one of Silicon Valley’s most popular Burn Books. Rumors that start on Secret have spilled out into online conversation, including a bunch of actual news about the tech industry.

Of course, many rumors are false. Earlier this year, prominent developer Julie Ann Horvath was the subject of gossip on the mobile application, and in response, she publicly told the real story behind her departure from GitHub, which included accusing company leadership of harassment.

Gossip transcends Silicon Valley—though it’s certainly polarizing in the Bay Area, Secret’s home. On Thursday, Secret was pulled from the App Store in Brazil because under Brazilian law, anonymous free expression is forbidden.

Creating A More Positive Environment

Secret has tried to solve it’s bullying problem before. But as Fortune writer Dan Primack discovered, the app’s flagging system and algorithm that detects certain keywords was not enough.

Now, though, by enabling more extensive anti-bullying measures, Secret can create a safer space and cut down on the anonymous mudslinging.

See Also: I’ll Tell You A Secret: Anonymous Apps Matter

I’ve found that Secret can be a positive place, when you start to weed out all the poison. I often see inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking stories that, for whatever reason, people don’t feel like they can post them anywhere else.

Adding Photos And Polls

Along with the anti-harassment updates, Secret prevents people from uploading photos from their own photo libraries.

People can now search for and add photos from Flickr to use as the image behind their secret, similar to another anonymous app, Whisper. However, the app still lets users take photos in real-time, so it won’t necessarily prevent people from accidentally (or purposely) shrugging the anonymity. 

The app also added a polling feature that lets users ask their friends questions, and see responses in real-time.

Images courtesy of Secret.

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Big Data’s Poster Child Has Issues—But They’re Not Slowing Hadoop Down

Pity poor Hadoop. The open-source software framework is virtually synonymous with the Big Data movement. Yet one of its earliest, biggest users has joined a chorus of critics, charging Hadoop with being “unpredictable” and “risky.” Others, like Gartner’s Merv Adrian, worry about its weak security provisions.

See also: Hadoop: What It Is And How It Works

Despite these (mostly) valid concerns, people and organizations are still lining up to adopt Hadoop, which makes it possible to store and process huge amounts of data on clusters of commodity hardware. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the entire planet hasn’t just been hoodwinked into the Hadoop embrace. Why does it remain so successful?

Loopholes In Hadoop

As the poster child for the Big Data movement, it’s not surprising that Hadoop is often given a free pass when it comes to many of its weaknesses. Still, there are an awful lot of them.

As one of the earliest users of Hadoop at Yahoo!, Sean Suchter seems qualified to point out Hadoop’s weak operational capabilities. Among the concerns he highlights:

Hadoop can usually ensure that a data job completes, but it is unable to guarantee when the job will be completed. Hadoop jobs often take longer to run than anticipated, making it risky to depend on the job output in production applications. When a critical production job is running, other, lower-priority jobs can sometimes swallow up the cluster’s hardware resources, like disk and network, creating serious resource contentions that ultimately can result in critical production jobs failing to complete safely and on time.

And then there’s security. Gartner analyst Merv Adrian polled enterprises for their biggest barriers to Hadoop adoption. Among unsurprising results like “undefined value proposition,” Adrian was particularly interested by how few seemed to care about Hadoop’s security:

In response, he says, “Can it be that people believe Hadoop is secure? Because it certainly is not. At every layer of the stack, vulnerabilities exist, and at the level of the data itself there [are] numerous concerns.” 

Given the type of data—e.g., credit card transaction data, health data, etc.—commonly being used with Hadoop, it’s surprising that so few seem to be thinking about security. But it’s also surprising that these and other concerns don’t seem to be holding back Hadoop adoption.

The Hadoop Train Has Left The Station

And let’s be clear: none of these concerns has slowed Hadoop’s rise. As IDC finds, over half of enterprises have either deployed or are planning to deploy Hadoop within the next year, with over 100,000 people listing Hadoop as part of their talent profile on LinkedIn:

In part this broad adoption reflects a characteristic of Hadoop: It’s open source and encourages data exploration in a way that traditional technologies like enterprise data warehouses cannot. As Alex Popescu notes, Hadoop “allows experimenting and trying out new ideas, while continuing to accumulate and storing your data.” 

Developers and other users know it’s complex and understand its other limitations, but the upside of quickly downloading the technology and using it to store and analyze large quantities of data is too tempting.

Also, there seems to be a growing awareness that the pace of innovation in the Hadoop community is so fast that today’s challenges will likely be resolved by tomorrow. As such, Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri declares that “[t]he Hadoop open source community and commercial vendors are innovating like gangbusters to make Hadoop an enterprise staple” to the point that it will “become must-have infrastructure for large enterprises.”

And, Not Or

One other reason that Hadoop has proved so successful is that it’s not really growing at anyone’s expense. Hadoop doesn’t displace existing data infrastructure, it just adds to it.

As Cloudera’s Christophe Bisciglia notes

Rather than replace existing systems, Hadoop augments them by offloading the particularly difficult problem of simultaneously ingesting, processing and delivering/exporting large volumes of data so existing systems can focus on what they were designed to do.

Still, while Hadoop isn’t likely to replace an enterprise data warehouse today, relative interest in Hadoop is booming relative to its EDW peers:

Hadoop isn’t perfect. It’s not manna from heaven that will feed billions or foster world peace. But it’s promising enough that enterprises are willing to overlook its problems today to benefit from its power tomorrow. 

Lead image by Arpit Gupta

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Perseid Meteor Shower Rains Down in Google Doodle

The Google Doodle for August 11 and 12 in many parts of the world highlights the annual August meteor shower NASA considers the year’s best.

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Amazon Web Services: It’s Big, Getting Bigger And Not Slowing Down

Amazon Web Services is already the 800-pound gorilla in cloud. It offers five times the utilized compute capacity of its next 14 competitors combined and is arguably the fastest-growing software business in history. According to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, however, this isn’t nearly ambitious enough. AWS aims to become an 800,000-pound gorilla. 

That’s because Amazon isn’t in the business of “infrastructure as a service,” as the process of setting data services such as storage and computation is dubbed in a jargony way. According to Vogels, Amazon is in “the business of pain management for enterprises.” And there’s a whole lot of pain to manage these days.

Amazon’s Dominance Problem

While not a bully, Amazon tends to dominate the markets it gets into. In retail this means that Amazon outsells its nine closest competitors, combined. While we like to fixate on the success of Apple stores, they move just a fraction of the product Amazon sells, according to data from Internet Retailer:

See also: Google’s Secret Weapon Against Amazon: Blisteringly Fast Networks

Amazon’s retail business generates roughly $70 billion in revenues. In an interview with Recode, Vogels insisted that Amazon has every intention of making AWS as big or bigger than its retail operations:

This is a business that will be as big as our retail businesses if not bigger.… It took us six years, or until 2012, to get to 1 trillion objects stored. Then it took us one more year to get to 2 trillion. So that’s an indication of the speed of growth. To my eyes, that it only took a year to get to 2 trillion, it looks like the onset of a hockey stick.

In other words, that huge delta between AWS and its cloud rivals? Amazon expects it to get even bigger.

Competitors? What Competitors?

When asked about competitors, Vogels was quick to assert that Amazon doesn’t think about what other cloud providers are doing except “when we want to understand why someone might want to choose something other than AWS.”

Let’s assume he’s telling the truth, and the company is completely customer-centric, and not too bothered by what Microsoft or Google might be up to (which might not be wise, as I’ve argued here and here). 

See also: What Microsoft’s Fiercest Critics Forget: Azure

The reality, however, is that AWS is a bigger threat by far to established software companies than to cloudy new providers. As Credit Suisse IT executive Zohar Melamed states it:

In other words, Amazon’s rise, as troubling as it may be to its cloud competitors, spells the end of an enterprise software era. That’s got to keep the Oracles of the world up at night.

Lock-in Rising?

So competitors should be worried, but what about customers? With so much of modern workloads running on AWS, do enterprises risk locking themselves into the next Microsoft?

Definitely maybe.

Vogels, of course, says no way: 

[Amazon has] worked really hard at not locking our customers in…. There’s no lock-in. Many of our services are really accessible from standard protocols. I’ve never gotten any feedback from our customers saying “please don’t build this.” They all say “please build more….” It’s the same story around standardization. I’ve yet to have a customer say they’re not going to use our stuff because it’s not standardized.

Yet according to one AWS partners, Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos, the only real way to avoid lock-in is through standardized open source software. As Mickos writes, “What to a customer first looked like an exciting new piece of software—easy to try, no strings attached—soon infests the organization and isn’t quite as easy to remove.” So, he suggests, “By using industry-standard open source software products, you reduce your lock-in down to an absolute minimum.”

AWS runs on a lot of open-source software, of course, but it’s not open source itself. While I doubt AWS spends any time trying to find ways to lock its customers in, the reality is that many will be.

Not because the code is closed so much as because we keep wanting to build more and more within AWS, just as we used to want to build everything with the Microsoft stack. In sum, while one day we may regret our new Amazon overlord, it seems we’re currently all too content to push as much of our IT onto Vogel’s shoulders as possible.

Lead image of Amazon CTO Werner Vogels by Flickr user The Next Web Photos, CC 2.0

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Panda Strikes Again: Yahoo Voices & The Yahoo Contributor Network Closing Down

Yahoo has announced another round of product cuts and changes, all part of what it calls a continued effort on “furthering our focus.” The most notable cut announced today is the upcoming closure of both Yahoo Voices (voices.yahoo.com) and the Yahoo Contributor Network…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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